"If you think you're enlightened, spend a week with your family."
~ Ram Dass, from Love Serve Remember
Nothing is truer than this statement. This is the real spiritual work. Take it off the mat, take it out of the personal development book, take it off the cushion. Time to walk the talk.
If you are “gearing up” for spending time with your family this year, you are not alone. We are always children when we go home no matter how old our actual age. That inner child will always have some amount of unmet needs of attention, affection, allowing, acceptance or appreciation.
This inner child may be coming into a family gathering with a deficit, with a wound, even with an expectation of getting hurt. This child may be watching and waiting for familiar signs that it is inadequate, unwanted or less than. Even if there isn’t a toxic tie to navigate in your family gathering, there are always people present that might rattle you.
Triggers might appear in the form of remarks about your job status, relationship status, parenting style or appearance. These off hand comments can feel like big zingers that throw you off your game, creating a spiral of anger and insecurity. Good times right?
“Holidays are created to bring up all our crap so we can practice forgiveness.”
~ Gabrielle Bernstein
If walking into your family gathering feels like a minefield, here are a couple of tips to help you navigate:
1. Everyone is truly doing his or her best (even if it doesn’t look anything like it from where you’re standing.)
People may be-tired, over sugared, feeling small, feeling ugly, feeling overweight, feeling anxious, feeling insecure, nursing old wounds, hurt by something that was just said to them, grieving, feeling lonely, feeling sick, trying to stay sober. There are any number of reasons that people don’t act the way we wish they would. They are trying with everything they have just as you are.
"Be kind for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle."
2. Forgive yourself
If you lose it, if you feel petty, if your buttons get pushed, if you respond exactly the way you didn’t want to, if you fall into old unhealthy patterns of relating, if you get sucked in. You are ALSO doing your best. Here is my prayer for you.
A Prayer to Release Your Burdens
I forgive myself.
I will no longer be held hostage in my own mind.
I will no longer replay events and wonder if I could have/should have/would have done more/been more.
I did all I could do.
I gave it everything I had.
I acted with all of the tools that I have and to the best of my abilities.
My intent was always love.
I forgive myself.
Say this in the bathroom when you sneak off to get away. Say it into your pillow at night.
3. We can’t control how we feel but we can choose how to respond to those feelings.
You are not a victim. You are an adult who has a cozy little corner of self-love, proud achievements, acceptance for your authentic self and stability back home. Don’t forget this.
If we walk into a situation feeling insecure and anxious, we are already poised to get knocked off our center. When someone says something to us that feels painful, it already feels like One More Thing or the famous Last Straw. We are ready to do battle very quickly, withdraw or eat/drink our feelings, depending on our personalities.
It’s important to remember that what is said may be magnified by the open wound we are already feeling. It’s like the salt jar just accidentally fell in. We can pause, we can breathe, we can excuse ourselves and we can actively physically shake it off. Our call.
4. The very best armor is good sleep, exercise, whole foods, meditation and prayer.
Try to do any or all of the above that are within your control. This is one of my favorite exercises for walking into uncertain situations:
Ground and own the holiday space with this simple visualization. It will help shift the energy in whatever space you are in to support you and help you feel comfortable. Imagine a column of golden light in the center of the space you will be in. This column extends from the center of the Earth to the heavens. Place a golden rose at the top of the column with three words that signal your intention for your experience. These can be words like Stable, Peaceful, Relaxed, Strong, Joyful, Happy. Imagine writing your name on all of the walls in the space or hanging pictures of you smiling and having fun. This exercise helps you to set the energy of the space to a vibration that supports your highest good.
I wish you the absolute loveliest holiday season and strength for any challenges that come your way!